How I reached new heights as a global educator

In June 2013, 36 educators completed international field study in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil as the 2013 NEA Foundation-Pearson Foundation Global Learning Fellows. Upon return, they created lesson plans, unit plans, and full curriculum integrated with global competency skills. To replicate these in your classroom and to discover new, global lesson plan ideas created by the Fellows, check out their open-source materials on our network page.

By Dr. Melissa Collins, a 2013 NEA Foundation-Pearson Foundation Global Learning Fellow and a member of the Tennessee Education Association

I remember the fear I felt that day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, when I had the opportunity to see the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue. The national landmark sits atop a 2,300-foot peak of Corcovado Mountain. You see, I’m scared of heights.  

I talked myself out of making the climb a few times before I thought about the many students I met during my 13 years as a teacher.  Students take risks every day. I knew I had to, too. That day, I faced my fears head-on and climbed the mountain to see the statue that represented hope and promise in Brazilian culture. The vast expanse below was such an amazing sight that I knew I had to share the experience with my students. After the Global Learning Fellowship, I re-entered my second grade classroom with a sense of urgency and commitment to global awareness.

Photo by Leigh VandenAkker

My first step was to implement a new lesson plan, which I created using the knowledge gained from the Fellowship studies and by visiting Brazilian classrooms and meeting with other educators. I integrated “Sounds All Around” into the physical science unit, and my students began to evaluate Brazilian instruments and pick up on their individual sounds. They even built their own instruments using recyclable items. Common Core State Standards also came into play with the accompanying informational text, which framed the learning and new vocabulary. The lesson was a great success; so much so that educators from across the country replicated it in their own classrooms.

But I wanted to take my students a step further, so that they could learn with the world, just as I had in Brazil.

Photos by Tommy Young
and Clare Taylor

We connected with classrooms from around the globe, from England and Spain to California, through ePals, an online global learning community for schools. At the end of the project, my students created self-portraits, which we uploaded onto a shared media gallery. Now, they can’t wait to partner with a Brazilian classroom to meet a new group of students and discover more resources for their “Sounds All Around” lesson.  

Exposure to a deeper global awareness using interactive technology forced my students to think critically and creatively. Above all, that’s what they need to travel down the road to college and career readiness; they need to connect with a diverse peer group now, if they want to compete and collaborate globally, as well as understand their place and responsibility to a greater global society.  

No matter what our individual “fear of heights” may be as educators, we need to conquer it together as we empower our students to be globally competent.

When you expose your students to the world, you will see incredible things happen. I did!

Download the full lesson on Featured educator, Melissa Collins, is a 2013 Pearson Foundation Global Learning Fellow and teaches at John P. Freeman Optional School in Memphis, TN. Find more information about the Global Learning Fellowship and discover more global lesson plans created by Fellows.


Charles Seaton Jr
April 24, 2014 @ 2:33 PM
Dr. Collins, you continue to be an inspiration to me. I appreciate you willingness to take risks to advance the craft of educators. As a Teach Plus Policy Fellow, I saw first hand you commitment to education and the humility you exhibited. You are a credit to the profession.
Jeffrey Mister
April 28, 2014 @ 1:30 PM
Dr. Collins,

I admire your ambition and your work of knowledge and your willingness to go above and beyond to better reach your kids. I am glad to work with you, know you, and look forward to participating with you as you continue grow in the future! Thank you and you push me!
The NEA Foundation
May 2, 2014 @ 4:00 PM
Congratulations to Dr. Collins, who has been asked to speak at an event hosted by Davenport Universityâs College of Urban Education on May 14.

The event,âBrown v. Board of Education at 60: Making Good on the Promise for STEM," will include a teach-off and keynote discussions on how urban educators can help close the achievement gap between white students and students of color, especially in STEM. Learn more about the event here:

What a great opportunity and a well-deserved honor!

Subscribe to our blog